|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Feeling all left out
WITH media attention shifting to Zimbabwe's towns and cities, there's every danger that farmers are going to start feeling ignored - not by ZANU-PF and its gangs of peripatetic war vets, but by the people who care about the wrong that is happening in their country. And while there is still immense Press interest in Zimbabwe, it has been revived (and is concentrating on) the invasions that are happening in the towns and cities.
That's natural enough, but a little unfortunate for farmers. There are many elements that are necessary for Zimbabwe's return to normality, but honest, open communications is a vital one and unless the world knows what is happening… well, it will just continue to happen.
When farm invasions became a long-term reality for organised agriculture in February last year, farmers and their organisations adopted a sensible, sound policy of openness. Critics will say that's not entirely true, but for the most part they'd be wrong. After all, it was that same openness that drew the world's Press to Zimbabwe. And it was the Press that made the world aware of the heinous venality of Zimbabwe's rogue regime.
But when invasions became a reality in the capital, it took about two weeks for business organisations to respond. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries eventually issued a strongly worded statement predicting a descent into anarchy if the invasions weren't stopped, but it was a strongly worded statement that didn't mention the self-styled war veterans who're causing businesses so much grief, it didn't mention ZANU-PF's duplicitous role and it didn't even mention invasions. Instead it spoke vaguely of "external interference."
The CZI's initial response stands in rather forlorn contrast to the way the CFU handled invasions when they first began to interfere with organised agriculture.
So why the sudden need for secrecy? Any Harare based journalist will tell you that finding a businessman to talk about invasions is all but impossible. If you're lucky, someone will speak off the record. Farmers, who're isolated and who, quite literally, live with their families on their business premises, have and still do talk about their experiences at the hands of intimidatory and often violent war vets.
But there are now small signals that indicate that the same paranoia is beginning to infect Zimbabwe's rural businesses. That's about the worst thing that could possible happen. Why? Because a pliant and paranoid population is exactly what the puppet masters of this madness want.
Realism never hurt - and the reality is that Zimbabwe is set to join the ranks of pariah nations. It sits down there with places like Libya, Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq and secrecy and silence will keep it there. There's another word for people who refuse to speak out, for people who see merit in cooperating with the very people who're bullying them, for people who think they can buy their way out of this mess: it's called cowardice.
For a country with a tragic and traumatic history, the current crisis ranks down there with the worst of them. Classic Maoist tactics, driven by greed and fear, are taking the country pell-mell into a crash and burn scenario, but there are still people out there who believe they can talk or buy their way out of the problem - which is both cowardly and foolish.
Zimbabwe is far from lost. It is not yet an Angola or Bosnia. Its rulers have set in motion policies that could make Zimbabwe either of those countries, but it can be prevented - and reversed. Farmers know that open, honest talk has worked better than secretive negotiation. Urban business still needs to learn this lesson, but it had better get a move on because time is running out.
There are a great many people in Zimbabwe standing tall and confronting the evil that they face. Some of them are farmers, others politicians, lawyers and judges, some are trade unionists and others are just ordinary people who refuse to be bullied into submission. Their common thread is courage and honesty. There are others who chose to leave, no doubt to return if and when "it all comes right" and that's fine under certain circumstances, usually connected to stark economic reality.
But when Zimbabwe does rise from the ashes it's made for itself, and it will, there'll be those who'll be called collaborators - and they're in for a torrid time, not because this is the right thing to do, but because that's human nature. The people who've hushed up the board room invasions, who've lied about their cooperation with the regime and, most of all, the people who've bought (or tried to) their way out of trouble will find Zimbabwe a sad and difficult place to live - as will the ludicrous exiles who left others behind to fight for decency.
And it is a fight. When Mr Robert Mugabe buried his trusty lieutenant, Mr Border Gezi, last week he spoke loftily of a "Third Chimurenga". Chimurenga is a state of war, and that war is being waged against farmers, businessmen, workers and anyone affiliated with the opposition. Anyone, in other words, with capital or education.
But it's a war that he must ultimately lose, even if that seems doubtful now, because decency always prevails. And for those who think there can be individual winners, who believe that making a plan with their tormentors (which just means moving them on to some other unfortunate victim) is sensible or even politic, there will be a time of reckoning - and it may be sooner than most realise.
Editor- The Farmer
RBZ tightens forex controls on tobacco buyers
Tea estates under threat
CFU's staff changes
Newcastle Disease threat
Tobacco deliveries remain low despite firm prices
Humans and the FMD menace
RBZ tightens forex controls on tobacco buyers
The Zimbabwe government, facing a critical shortage of foreign currency, has introduced measures barring tobacco buyers who have access to offshore funds for the purpose of purchasing tobacco in the country for export, from accessing onshore funds unless permitted to do so by the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
Tobacco industry sources said although it was more expensive to borrow money locally compared to offshore funds because of the high interest rates in Zimbabwe, some buyers still preferred to borrow onshore as they expected to cash in on the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Some tobacco buyers said the move by the central bank came amid suspicion that some tobacco buyers were borrowing money for tobacco purchases locally thereby depriving the country of the much-needed foreign currency.
Some tobacco buyers who talked to The Farmer on condition of anonymity confirmed there were some buyers who were borrowing onshore although it was expensive to do so. Such buyers were doing so in anticipation of devaluation.
The Statutory Instrument published in an extraordinary Government gazette on 24 April, the day tobacco auction floors opened, states that only buyers authorised by the RBZ to access onshore funds shall do so through authorised dealers.
This means that tobacco buyers buying tobacco in Zimbabwe for export have to access the finance elsewhere other than Zimbabwe. Those who have no access to offshore funds are required to sign and submit a letter to an authorised dealer who the buyer wants to use to access onshore funds confirming that they are not capable of accessing offshore funds.
The dealer shall then advise the RBZ of the name of the tobacco buyer and the amount the dealer wants to get. The buyer is not permitted to access the money unless the dealer has been notified by the RBZ that the buyer is now permitted to do so.
The dealers were also supposed to comply with any directives issued by the RBZ concerning any foreign currency that comes in their possession.
RBZ, however, allows tobacco buyers to retain the export proceeds realised from the sale of tobacco in their own Foreign Currency Accounts (FCA).
The authorised dealers are required to, before the end of the working day every Tuesday, complete drawn down return forms furnishing the RBZ of the preceding week's transactions.
Tea estates under threat
THE Zimbabwean government has said it will acquire land in the high value tea and coffee producing Eastern Highlands districts under its controversial fast-track resettlement scheme, a move that could also affect some of the country's biggest holiday resorts and hotels.
Of the 374 farms most recently listed for compulsory acquisition by the state are properties belonging to Tanganda Tea Estates, a listed company that exports tea to Europe, as well as several coffee estates. Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) says the tea industry is worth Z$965.7 million, while coffee is worth Z$924 million with both crops being predominantly export oriented.
Mrs Pedia Moyo, president of the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) confirmed that land in tourism areas had also been listed for acquisition by the government. Zimbabwe's tourism industry has seen over 10 000 jobs lost during the political crisis sparked off by self-styled war veterans who continue to invade farms and tourism areas around the country. According to the ZCT, 66 tourism companies have closed down since the crisis began.
Fear of reprisal has stopped Zimbabwean businesses from commenting on acquisition orders and invasions, but Mrs Moyo confirmed that appeals would be lodged against the orders affecting hotels and resorts, while Martin Cameron who is both managing director of Tanganda and chairman of the Tea Growers' Association told Zimbabwe's Independent newspaper that it was too early to comment on an appeal. He would not say how much land was affected by the Zimbabwean government's most recent list.
CFU's staff changes
THE CFU this week announced key changes in its management structure following recommendations of its restructuring committee.
Dr Jerry Grant, hitherto deputy director (Regions) takes over as deputy director (Commodities), a position previously held by Mr Richard Amyot who resigned from the union last month. Mr Malcolm Vowles, previously deputy director (Administration & Projects) takes over as deputy director (Regions).
Newcastle Disease threat
ZIMBABWE could be facing another outbreak of the potentially devastating Newcastle Disease posing a serious threat to exports of poultry and poultry products as well as ostrich meat. So far, a total of 2 627 Newcastle cases have been reported, with 2 616 of these being chicken deaths.
According to the Department of Veterinary Services March newsletter, some 13 000 chickens were at risk at four different locations in Masvingo province where the disease had been reported. Two of the locations were in Masvingo district, Mukosi resettlement area at Madzive and Bandara dip-tanks. Two other locations where the disease was reported were in Chivi District at Tungwani and Chivi turn-off.
The veterinary services department said; "so far the indications are that Newcastle Disease could be on the increase in 2001 as already this year, the number of outbreaks already equals those of the whole of last year." The situation, the department said, called for close monitoring as uncontrolled outbreaks could result in Zimbabwe losing its export markets for poultry and poultry products as well as for ostrich meat.
Lumpy skin disease
The report which also refers to other livestock diseases said the lumpy skin disease, which affects cattle, had been reported in almost all provinces throughout the country. It said although this was not a very serious problem for indigenous breeds of cattle, it could cause serious losses in exotic dairy breeds in particular.
The number of affected cattle in a herd following an outbreak could range between 5% and 50% and case fatality rate could range from 1 to 75 percent with the biggest economic losses being due to reduction in milk yields, loss of condition and permanent damage to the skin of infected animals. Prevention was by vaccination, and if done properly, could remain protective for up to three years.
There has also been sporadic outbreaks of Anthrax in which some 8 000 cattle were at risk of infection throughout the country, the veterinary department report said. A total of 56 cases were reported and 10 000 were vaccinated in response of the outbreak.
In Mashonaland East, Anthrax was reported at two locations in Marondera district at Mawire and Pfende dip-tanks. In Mashonaland West, it was reported at Madzima dip-tank of Zvimba district. In the Midlands, three outbreaks were reported at Negove, Bukuta and Chehungwe dip-tanks in Mberengwa district.
The department said at least four provinces had reported the occurrence of Dermatophilosis in cattle (Senkobo). "Dermatophilosis is one disease whose importance is increasing in Zimbabwe," the report said. The condition, described as a contact disease caused by a bacterium and which effects the skin of cattle, has so far been reported in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Midlands and Matabeleland West.
In sheep, the disease causes what is referred to as "lumpy wool" and "strawberry foot rot". No cases of sheep infection have so far been reported this year.
In areas where this disease commonly occurs such as Gokwe and Sanyati, it is referred to by communal farmers as "elephant disease" bacause of the appearance of the skin of the affected cattle. The skin becomes thickened, wrinkled and hairless like and an elephant's skin and this may cover the entire body in serious cases. The affected animal loses considerable weight and emaciated cases may die.
According to the veterinary report, exotic cattle breeds were more susceptible while wetness of the skin (rainfall, dipping etc) infestation with bont ticks, flies and other causes of skin injury were important pre-disposing risk factors. The veterinary department warned that Dermatophilosis was difficult to treat and control once it occurred in a herd. Tick control, culling and use of 0.03 % copper sulphate may help to limit the spread of the disease, it said.
Tobacco deliveries remain low despite firm prices
TOBACCO deliveries to the auction flows have continued to be slow as selling entered the second week as some farmers continue to hold on to their crop, but prices for the flue cured tobacco have remained firm while those for burley tobacco remain low.
However, bookings were expected to start rising this week as the school holidays come to an end. Some farmers who had closed for holidays after reaping were expected to open their grading shades to start grading.
Burley Marketing Zimbabwe (BMZ) managing director, Mr Bruce Searles told The Farmer that bookings for deliveries were starting to peak up and the price for flue cured tobacco was holding firm.
He, however, said the deliveries were still slow and that for burley low quality leaf was being delivered. He said burley might fetch a slightly higher price when better quality crop deliveries start but would remain generally low due to the huge crop in Malawi.
Most farmers were holding on to their crop in the hope that the Zimbabwe dollar will be devalued. Farmers want an exchange rate of between Z$75 and Z$80 to the US$1 but the government has insisted there will be no devaluation.
Tobacco contributes 30% of the country's foreign currency making it the largest single earner. It was hoped that the opening of the tobacco-selling season would ease the forex crisis, which has led to persistent fuel shortages.
Some have opposed devaluation saying it would further fuel inflation and increase government debt. However, companies are accessing forex on the parallel market and passing on the extra cost to the consumer. By allowing the parallel market to thrive, analysts say, the government had indirectly devalued the Zimbabwe dollar and therefore those following official channels as those in the tobacco industry were being disadvantaged.
WAR veteran leader and self styled commander in-chief of farm invasions, Joseph Chinotimba, who of late has led the invasions of firms in Harare, was humiliated in front of workers and Zanu-PF supporters when he attempted to "invade" the VIP podium during May Day celebrations in Harare last week.
The garrulous Chinotimba had tried to gatecrash the official podium reserved for organisers of the event, Zimbabwe Congress Trade Unions (ZCTU) officials, and other dignitaries when a group of people waving their palms, an MDC symbol, blocked his way. The war veteran leader was accompanied to Rufaro Stadium, the traditional venue of May Day celebrations, by a small group fist waving supporters.
Although there were no physical clashes between the two groups, the situation became so tense and volatile that riot police in attendance had to call for reinforcements. Mr Chinotimba was prevented from approaching the VIP rostrum until after the ZCTU officials had left.
He later, however, forced his way onto the podium, grabbed the microphone and started addressing a group of Zanu-PF supporters while most of the workers trickled out of the stadium, some of them loudly denouncing him.
Addressing the workers earlier, ZCTU President, Mr Lovemore Matombo, criticised the government for economic mismanagement, saying this had resulted in deteriorating standards of living among workers causing much suffering in the country.
He said the government was blaming everyone but itself for the current ills in the country.
"They might blame Britain, they might blame South Africa and United States but they can't continue to blame others for 20 years," said Mr Matombo.
He said what was needed were realistic solutions to address the current problems.
Commenting on the current wave of firm invasions, which have raised concern in the business community, investors and international community, Mr Matombo said the war veterans were not solving any problems and their solutions were only temporary. He said the so-called war veterans would not intimidate the ZCTU.
It was wrong, he said, for the government and the war veterans to accuse the ZCTU of not representing workers. He said the ZCTU was a law-abiding body following the laws that were set by the same government regarding labour issues. Therefore, he said, members of the trade union movement were taking labour matters to the labour ministry in accordance with the law but the ministry was taking years to resolve the matters.
Mr Matombo said, "I takes seven years for matters to be attended to. Does ZCTU employ judges? Do we employ industrial relations or labour officers"?
Commenting on the eve of May Day celebrations, MDC shadow Minister for Labour and Social Welfare, Mrs Pauline Gwanyanya, said the country was faced with a collapsing economy, loss of jobs and company closures resulting in increased poverty.
In addition, she said lawless elements of the ruling party had decided to take dispute settlement into their own hands, creating the kind of insecurity that is prevalent among workers and industry as a whole. She said workers needed job security, affordable means to get to work, food and accommodation and reduced costs of education.
In particular, she said, there was need to dramatically increase the minimum wages in the agriculture, domestic and commercial sectors in order to redress the gross disparities between these sectors and the rest of the formal sector employment.
MDC President, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, urged workers to be vigilant against being hoodwinked by any self-proclaimed new messiahs who might claim to represent their interests through clandestine dispute settlement mechanisms.
In his address, Mr Chinotimba said he would continue to intervene in labour disputes between employers and employees and gave a list of companies he had targeted.
Humans and the FMD menace
WHILE concern over a human version of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) rages through Britain, local experts say that it is possible for humans to contract the disease. But they say it is very rare and not lethal.
Dr Philip Gilbert-Green, a Zimbabwean veterinarian, told The Farmer that in 1978 he accidentally infected his assistant, a government Animal Health Inspector, with the FMD virus on a farm just north of Harare. "He developed small blisters in his mouth and felt a tingling in his fingers and toes," said the vet.
The accident happened before the introduction of modern vaccines. Previously to create immunity to FMD, vets would remove fluid from blisters on an infected animal, dilute it and re-infect a FMD free herd - a system some veterinarians consider more effective than the modern vaccines used today.
While removing fluid from a bull's hoof, Dr Gilbert - Green's hand slipped when the bull moved and the needle pricked his assistant's hand, infecting him with the virus.
"It was a direct injection," said Gilbert - Green. "Eating meat infected with the virus won't pass FMD on to humans."
At one stage, the British thought that the FMD epidemic that swept through the country might have come from Zimbabwe - a rumour that was quickly quashed when it was pointed out that it was a Type C virus which has never been reported north of the Limpopo. Zimbabwe, which has world acknowledged FMD experts and, until the land invasion crisis, some of the strictest FMD controls found anywhere, has Southern African Type 1, 2 and 3 FMD virus.
The South African province of KwaZulu Natal recently reported a Type C outbreak, the first such recorded in southern Africa. Unlike Zimbabwe, South Africa has few controls on the movement of livestock - while Britain has none, which local vets say is the reason the epidemic spread so fast in that country.
Harare - Zimbabwe's main opposition party lost a third legal battle on
Wednesday in its bid to have courts nullify the outcomes in 37 constituencies in
last year's parliamentary elections, a party spokesperson said.
The latest ruling is the third loss for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has won three cases while three have been dropped.
Both the MDC and President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) plan to appeal to the Supreme Court the cases they lose.
MDC spokesperson Learnmore Jongwe said his party was still waiting for a copy of the ruling in the latest case, but that High Court Judge Paddington Garwe had issued his ruling that Zanu-PF candidate Phillip Chiyangwa had duly won the race for the Chinhoyi district.
|Waiting for a copy of the ruling in the latest case|
|Compromised by... violence and fraud|
|Ex-fighters storm car parks|
5/9/01 8:49:34 AM (GMT +2)
About 50 war veterans
and Zanu PF supporters wielding clubs and iron bars attacked youths manning four
car parks in Kuwadzana Extension, Harare, on Sunday night.
|Bulawayo acting mayor plans to build fuel station|
5/9/01 8:38:46 AM (GMT +2)
From Our Correspondent in Bulawayo
will today discuss an application by the acting
Executive Mayor David Ndlovu for a $1,9 million stand to build a fuel
[huh? what fuel?...B]
|Retrenched workers forced to join Zanu PF|
5/9/01 8:39:20 AM (GMT +2)
From Our Correspondent in Bulawayo
Former Merspin Limited
workers in Bulawayo who were recently reinstated by war veterans, were allegedly
forced to join Zanu PF as a condition of their reinstatement.
By Basildon Peta
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would not intervene to end the current wave of invasions of businesses by self-styled war veterans, a spokesperson for the government said on Wednesday.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the country's biggest umbrella body for exporters and manufacturers, should instead address the grievances of workers.
"The CZI is continuing to exaggerate the crisis, but the war veterans have made clear that they will not allow impostors to hijack the genuine grievances of workers which they are trying to solve," Moyo told the Zimbabwean weekly paper the Financial Gazette.
|'Continuing to exaggerate the crisis'|
|Looking at a possible evacuation of their nationals|
From The Star (SA), 9 May
Zimbabwean high court judge resigns – report
Harare - A leading Zimbabwean high court judge who nullified three parliamentary election results won by President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party last year has resigned, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday. High Court judge James Devittie said he would leave his post from July after serving five years on the bench. "I find myself unable to justify my continued stay on the bench ... I intend, in the immediate future, to devote my efforts in the area of judicial and legal reform," Devittie told the paper. Devittie's resignation follows that of former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay who was forced into early retirement in March. The government had accused Gubbay, a white Zimbabwean, of bias in favour of the country's white minority. Mugabe swore in a political ally Godfrey Chidyausiku as acting chief justice.
Devittie, of mixed race, had overturned three election results originally won by Zanu-PF in last year's parliamentary poll, saying they were won through violence and intimidation. One of these ruled in favour of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who went to court to get the election result at his Buhera North constituency overturned. The government said it respected Devittie's rulings but would launch an appeal. Human rights and law groups have charged Mugabe's government with deliberately seeking to undermine the independence and power of the judiciary. The International Bar Association last month condemned the Zimbabwean government for intimidating the judiciary and undermining the rule of law.
From The Daily News, 8 May
MDC wins council elections seats in Mutare, Gweru
The MDC swept aside challenges by Zanu PF on Monday to win two council seats in Mutare, and three in Gweru. In Mutare, Norman Togara, 41, and Knowledge Nyamhoka, 29, of the MDC, won seats in wards one and four respectively in by-elections held over the weekend. They faced John Mpamhanga and Edna Akino of Zanu PF. In Sakubva’s Ward 1, Togara polled 620 votes to 403 for Mpamhanga. A total of 1 054 votes were cast, with 23 ballots spoilt. In Ward 4, Nyamhoka received 608 votes against 459 for Akino of Zanu PF. A total 1 073 people voted, while seven papers were spoilt. There are about 12000 registered voters in the two wards.
Togara, a salesman, said of his victory: "I knew I would win." Nyamhoka, who works for a timber company, said: "I am very happy, but I expected to win by a wider margin." At 29, he is believed to be the youngest councillor in Mutare. Akino declined to comment, while Mpamhanga left immediately after the results were announced. MDC activists broke into song and waved red cards to celebrate their victory, while Zanu PF supporters watched from a distance. The seats were part of eight rural and urban council seats at stake in Manicaland. The MDC fielded two candidates in Sakubva, four in Nyanga and one each in Chimanimani and Makoni. The other results were not immediately available.
The Ward 1 seat became vacant following the death last year of John Mangenje, a city businessman. The Ward 4 seat fell vacant last year after Davidson Tsopo, the previous councillor, was disqualified following a High Court petition challenging the conduct of the Registrar-General’s Office during ward elections. Both wards fall under Mutare Urban legislative constituency, which was won last June by the MDC’s Innocent Gonese, the party’s chief whip. Gonese said: "We are elated. This shows that people are yearning for change." Zanu PF contested in only five rural wards after the party failed to submit on time the papers for its candidate in Nyanga’s Ward 4 (Ruwangwe).
The MDC snatched three seats in tightly contested council by-elections held in Gweru and Kwekwe over the weekend. Highfield MP Munyaradzi Gwisai’s father, Enock Chikweche, won 462 votes against Zanu PF’s Reuben Bvunge’s 319 votes in Ward 5 in Gweru. William Chanza of the MDC pipped Zanu PF’s Bernard Rutsito, with 492 votes to 322 votes in Ward 10 of Kwekwe Urban. Gideon Matimba (MDC) won 72 votes against Litmus Mukurumbira of Zanu PF, who polled 54 votes in Ward 4, Kwekwe. Lovemore Siziba of Zanu PF polled 592 against Danisani Saidi of the MDC (29 votes) to win the Ward 5 seat in Kwekwe Rural. The results for the other by-elections in Gokwe South (wards, 21 and 30) and Gokwe North (Ward 2) were not available by yesterday afternoon. Sylvester Majekuza, the MDC’s organising secretary for Midlands North, described the voting process and the results as fair. Daniel Mackenzie Ncube, Zanu PF’s interim provincial secretary for information and publicity, could not be reached for comment. Several Zanu PF candidates in Shurugwi (three wards), Zvishavane (one ward), Gokwe North (one ward) and Mberengwa (two wards) stood unopposed after the MDC failed to field candidates in those areas.
From The Star (SA), 9 May
Uganda to withdraw from 'most' DRC positions
Kampala - Uganda has officially decided to withdraw troops from most of its positions in the DRC, but will remain party to the Lusaka peace process, Foreign Minister Eriya Kategaya said on Tuesday. "Uganda will completely withdraw its forces ... from the following positions in the DRC: Basankusu, Dongo, Gemena, Gbadolite, Lisala, Bagasende, Isiro, Butembo, Beni and Kanyabayonga," Kategaya said in a statement. Most of those positions are situated in the Equateur and Orientale provinces. However, Uganda will continue to "examine the wisdom of maintaining a presence in Buta and Bunia," he added. Both towns are situated in Orientale province.
Last month, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni recommended his government pull out of the DRC and the 1999 Lusaka peace accord. The announcement came after a report by a UN panel of experts which claimed Uganda, in particular relatives of Museveni, were looting natural resources in the DRC. Kampala deployed troops in the eastern DRC in 1998, along with Rwanda, to back rebels in an insurgency against the Kinshasa regime, which has received military support from Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
"Uganda will maintain deployment on the western slopes of the Ruwenzori mountains until Uganda's security interests have been addressed in accordance with the Lusaka Peace Agreement," Kategaya's statement added. Ugandan Allied Democratic Republic (ADF) rebels have operated out of rear bases in the Ruwenzori mountains, which straddle the common border, since 1996. They have periodically attacked trading centres and displaced people's camps in western Uganda. "Government has decided that Uganda remains a party to the Lusaka Peace Agreement and arrangements under it, the full implementation of which remains the only viable solution to the crisis in the DRC," Kategaya said.
Uganda also called on southern and East African nations to become more involved in promoting peace in the Great Lakes region. "Government of Uganda will propose to all members of the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community to become active players in the implementation of the Lusaka Peace agreement," he added. The statement, however, warned that Uganda would reconsider unilaterally pulling out of the accord "if she continues to be dissatisfied with the apparent lack of political will to bring peace to the DRC and the region by implementing the Lusaka Peace Agreement faithfully and promptly as originally envisaged".
From The Star (SA), 8 May
Obasanjo to push for US support in DRC
Kigali - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo warned on Tuesday against expecting "overnight wonders" in efforts to end the two-and-a-half-year war in Congo and said he would push for greater United States support for the peace process during a forthcoming meeting with President George Bush. On his way to Washington, Obasanjo was stopping over in Rwanda and Congo for consultations with his counterparts on the implementation of a 1999 agreement to end the war that involves two rebel groups and five foreign armies, in addition to Congo's own forces. "I found out that the Lusaka agreement is on course ... but when we are dealing with complex factors and complex situations like you have in untangling the DRC (Congo) issues, if you expect overnight wonders then you will be unrealistic," said Obasanjo before flying to Kinshasa where he was to hold talks with President Joseph Kabila.
The war began in August 1998 when Rwanda, Uganda and their Congolese rebel allies took up arms against then-President Laurent Kabila, accusing him of nepotism, war-mongering and backing Rwandan and Ugandan rebels who threatened their security. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia poured thousands of troops and military hardware into Congo in support of Kabila. All sides signed a peace agreement in 1999 in Lusaka, Zambia, but all have violated it. "I would say (to the Bush administration) that the Lusaka agreement is alive and kicking and is being implemented, and we need the support of all men and women of goodwill," said Obasanjo during the first visit to Rwanda by a Nigerian head of state.
It came a day after Rwanda and Zimbabwe, the major foreign powers on opposing sides in the war, agreed to push for a speedy end to the conflict in order to deal with pressing domestic problems. Rwandan security officials said the new spirit of co-operation is in sharp contrast to the acrimony between the two countries at earlier meetings of key committees set up to plan the disarming of the Rwandan Interahamwe militia that carried out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as well as former Rwandan government forces fighting on the side of the Congolese government.
A key provision of the Lusaka accord is the disarming of the so-called "negative forces". It also calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and an inter-Congolese political dialogue in which all Congolese participants are to be treated as equals. Kabila, 29, assumed office after his father was assassinated on January 16 and has shown far greater interest in pursing the peace process.
WOMEN'S WALK : MOTHERS' DAY
The women of Zimbabwe are suffering. As daughters, sisters, wives and mothers of all Zimbabweans - we are suffering. Every day we see our families go hungry, we see them out of school, out of work, sick and dying of HIV-related illnesses, victims of the political violence.
The crisis in Zimbabwe affects all women - all ages, all colours, all religions, all economic groups, all political parties.
Women are 52% of the population - we are the majority! Women are therefore invited, encouraged and indeed urged to join and support this initiative THE WOMEN'S WALK to coincide with Mothers' Day, a day to remember others everywhere who continually quietly care for their families and the wider community.
DATE : Saturday 12th MAY 2001
TIME : 9am
VENUE : BULAWAYO CITY HALL (CAR PARK)
THEME : : WE WANT A FUTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN
DRESS CODE : Skirts and dresses - no shorts.
UHAMBO LWABOMAMA NGE MOTHERS' DAY
Omama beZimbabwe bayahlupheka: njenga madokakazi, odadewabo, kanye labomama babantu beZimbabwe yonke. Nsukuzonke sibona izimuli zisifa yindlala, abanye bexotshwa ezikolo lase imisebenzini-kukanti abanengi labo begula bebulawa ligciwane le H.I.V. Sibonanjalo abanengi behlukuluzwa ludlakela lezombangazwe.
Umumo lo omubi kangaka uthinta omama bonke beZimbabwe. Awu khethi budala, umbala, ezenkolo kumbe amaqembu ezomnotho lamabandla ezombangazwe. Lo ngumumo ohlarela bonke abesifazana.
Kuliqiniso ukuthi thina omama yithi abanengi eZimbabwe - 52% kumuli yeZimbabwe yonke.
Bonke-ke omama bayanxuswa njalo bayakhuthazwa ukuzabambana labanye besekela uHambo lwabo Mama oluzakwenziwa ngeMothers' Day. Lolu lusuku lokukhumbula omama umhlaba wonke ngesineke abalaso emulini zabo lakulo lonke ulantu.
USUKU : Saturday 12th MAY 2OO1
ISIKHATHI : 9am
INDAWO : BULAWAYO CITY HALL (CAR PARK)
INJONGO : Sifuna abantwa bethu beZimbabwe babe lekusasa elihle.
OKOKUGQOKA : Izigqko Kumbe Izikethi
From The Guardian (UK), 8 May
Judge blocks Zimbabwe terror trial
Court queries legality of act used to try Mugabe's rival
Harare - The Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won an important first round victory against the government at his terrorism trial yesterday when the high court questioned the constitutionality of oppressive British colonial-era laws used to charge him. The high court postponed the trial while the supreme court considers whether President Robert Mugabe can even use the notorious Law and Order (Maintenance) Act which has been wielded by every Zimbabwean government for four decades to oppress opponents. If the supreme court strikes down either the entire act or the section dealing with terrorism, it will not only end Mr Tsvangirai's prosecution but possibly remove an important weapon from Mr Mugabe's arsenal in his battle with all manner of opponents. The act has been used to prevent anti-government demonstrations, to try to curb critical journalism and to justify violence against dissenters.
Judge Moses Chinhengo delivered his blow to the government's case on the first day of the trial: "It is common knowledge that the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act is a piece of colonial legislation that was introduced in 1960, before this country got a justiciable Bill of Rights in 1980," he said. "That historical fact suggests that in the new order, the act will be sorely tested each time it is relied upon by the state to prosecute an individual." No date was set for the supreme court hearing but if it upholds the law, the case will be referred back to the high court.
Mr Tsvangirai is on trial for terrorism, for a remark he made at a rally of his MDC party last September warning Mr Mugabe to resign after the opposition came close to winning parliamentary elections. "We say to Robert Mugabe, if you don't want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently," he said. The prosecutor, Nathaniel Sibanda, told the court yesterday that Mr Tsvangirai's words were an incitement to revolution. "The charges are directed at mischief of the highest order, which is calling for the violent removal of a lawfully elected president in a democratic state," he said.
But many Zimbabweans see the trial as an attempt to prevent Mr Tsvangirai running for president against Mr Mugabe. If the opposition leader is convicted and given more than six months in prison he would be barred from high office. Yesterday, Mr Tsvangirai praised the independence of the judiciary despite attempts by the government to purge the courts of "disloyal" judges. The supreme court is still considered independent with four of its five judges resisting pressure to resign. The fifth judge - Zimbabwe's new chief justice - was appointed in March after his white predecessor was threatened until he took early retirement.
Judge Chinhengo said the supreme court should decide whether the two sections of the Law and Order act under which Mr Tsvangirai is charged infringe the right to free speech and the right to be considered innocent until proved guilty. But the court could scrutinise the entire act if it chose. It was introduced in 1960 by the British colonial authorities to curb the activities of African nationalists pressing for the then Southern Rhodesia to become independent. The law was made even tougher by Ian Smith's white minority regime after its unilateral declaration of independence as Rhodesia. The white government used the act to jail Mr Mugabe for 10 years without a trial. Mr Tsvangirai's lawyer, Chris Andersen, was a minister of justice in the Smith government - although not the one who sent Mr Mugabe to prison. Yesterday he was challenging the constitutionality of a law he used repeatedly before independence. Two sections of the act - forbidding public gatherings without a police order and barring journalists from publishing news that might cause "fear and despondency" - have already been struck down by the supreme court.
Mr Mugabe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, said the government would respect the high court ruling. "We respect the institution of an independent judiciary and we look forward to the outcome of the supreme court case," he said. "It is interesting that so many international journalists came here for this case. We do not want to see an international media kangaroo court saying there is no rule of law in Zimbabwe. We hope they do not try to politicise this case. It is not a politically motivated case, it is a criminal case." But there are few in Zimbabwe who believe that.From The Daily News, 7 May
War veterans attack envoy
James Wall, the Canadian High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, was assaulted by rowdy war veterans when he tried to stop the abduction of Dennis O’Brien, the Canadian director of an aid agency CARE International, from his Harare office. Walls said he was pushed, shoved and ordered to clear the way for the veterans to deal with O’Brien over a labour dispute with one of the non-governmental organisation’s former workers. O’Brien has since protested to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the assault. Another complaint was also lodged with the police. "They didn’t listen to me, they pushed me aside and forced O’Brien into a pick-up truck and drove to the Zanu PF provincial office," said Wall. "I followed the truck and on arrival I tried to follow O’Brien into an office but I was physically stopped." Wall’s protest followed a similar one from the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who has written to the government, highlighting the raids on the offices of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the theft of food aid owned by a charity, HELP, and threats to a German flower company. "These events may negatively impact on the good and friendly relations existing between Germany and Zimbabwe," he said.
Wall said he rushed to the CARE offices after a distress call from workers who told him that two veterans were about to abduct O’Brien. On arrival, he said, he advised the war veterans that it was wrong to force a Canadian to the Zanu PF office. They pushed him aside, bundled O’Brien into a truck and drove off to the Zanu PF office. He was held there for about two hours. Contacted for comment, Joseph Chinotimba, chairman of war veterans in the Harare province, said it was unfortunate that Wall was assaulted. He said the veterans failed to appreciate who they were dealing with. "Baboons are the same," said Chinotimba, speaking in Shona. "If you see them destroying your maize field you just beat them up indiscriminately. Not that I support what they did, that was bad because it reduces the dignity of the High Commissioner." CARE is one of the largest aid agencies in Zimbabwe, with a mostly Zimbabwean staff of about 120 working on poverty alleviation, health, nutrition and emergency relief programmes.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Boyland, the managing director of the Avenues Clinic in Harare, together with his family, have gone into hiding because of excessive demands from war veterans. Boyland said the clinic has already paid out $6,3 million. "The war veterans came to us in April together with some ex-workers," said Boyland. "We negotiated with them and signed an agreement in the presence of an official from the President’s Office that we were paying the workers. They came back last Wednesday and demanded that the 30 ex-workers be reinstated and be paid their bonuses for the past six years. We said enough was enough. We were not going to do that." Boyland, 48, said on Friday he received a telephone call ordering him to report to the Zanu PF headquarters by 4.30pm. Yesterday, Boyland said he was still considering going to work today because he feared for his safety. Chinotimba said the labour dispute at the clinic was to be resolved today. Boyland, of Brighton, Britain, came to Zimbabwe last year to take over the running of the clinic.
From The Daily News, 7 May
Moyo wants nation to know why he resigned
Nkosana Moyo wants President Mugabe to tell the nation why he resigned as the Minister of Industry and International Trade last week. Yesterday, Moyo told The Daily News from South Africa he would ask the President today to make public the contents of his resignation letter. "I will ask if he has any problem with making the contents public," said Moyo. "I wrote him a personal letter in which I went into detail on the issues of concern to me. In that letter, I was making proposals on the issues that needed to be tackled. I respect the fact that I wrote a letter to an individual and the release of the contents of that letter is dependent on that individual, who is the President. If the President is happy about it then he will ask Jonathan Moyo to make it available to the nation through the Press." Jonathan Moyo is the Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the President’s Office.
What if Mugabe decided to keep the letter under lock and key? Moyo was asked. "I am not anticipating that. I don’t want to anticipate but let’s be more positive. I think he is the one who should decide what he wants to do with the letter because it is a personal letter," Moyo said. He said his working relationship with Mugabe was good and he would not want to antagonise him because he still wanted to be able to talk to him, listen to him and contribute to the development of Zimbabwe. Speculation is rife Moyo resigned in protest against rampant lawlessness which he had publicly denounced. He deplored hate-mongering and confrontation, saying the two maladies had destroyed the country. Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, praised Moyo for his "principled move" in resigning. Tsvangirai said: "He has done the right thing . . . I hope people in the government who still have some integrity and credibility, will follow his example."
From The Sunday Herald (UK), 6 May
Heroic African journalists to talk ‘freedom’ in Scotland
Young Scottish journalists will get a chance to find out what it’s like to be between a rock and a hard place after publicly defying political bully boys when two of Africa’s most courageous reporters fly into Glasgow to mark International Press Freedom Week and the Tenth anniversary of the Windhoek (Namibia) Declaration on Press Freedom in Africa.
Mark Chavanduka is the editor of "The Standard" in Zimbabwe and his colleague Mukalya Nampito is editor of the Zambian-based "Legal resources Foundation News." They are guests of Amnesty International UK Journalists’ Network and after visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh will speak on Africa and Press Freedom at two Scottish venues - The Pathway Lecture Theatre, University of Stirling (Tuesday May 8 between 4pm-6pm) and at the Scottish Centre for Journalism, University of Strathclyde, the following day between noon and 2 p.m. An Amnesty official said "This is a wonderful opportunity for Scottish journalists to hear what two outstanding and very courageous journalists have to say about the state of play in their countries and their continent . Journalists are not treated with kid gloves when they run foul of politicians. We have a lot to learn about African courage and resilience".
In April 1999, Mark Chavanduka became a household name among British journalists when he learned at great physical and mental cost that the pursuit of truth can be both traumatic and brutalising. He and his senior reporter Ray Choto were flown from Harare to Johannesburg with the financial help of Amnesty International and then on to London where they received eight weeks treatment at Helen Bamber’s Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture in Kentish Town. The story they brought with them to Britain was a grim catalogue of their treatment at the hands of Zimbabwe’s security forces - Robert Mugabe’s much feared Stasi-trained Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). The two men had reported a failed military coup late 1998. Mr Chavanduka, 39 and Mr Choto,35, were illegally picked up by the police and then detained by military intelligence officers who subjected them to what independent medical examiners said was "sustained severe torture" to force them to name the source of their report. Attempts by the Zimbabwean authorities to stop he two men from flying to London were blocked by a judge who went on to incur the fury of President Mugabe.
On his arrival in Britain, Mr Chavanduka spoke about his ordeal at the hands of the CIO. "Electric wires were attached to my testicles and I was tortured close to death. Our heads were put into water and held down for such a long time, we almost drowned." CIO torturers, trained by some of the world’s most deadly masochists in East Germany during the Cold War, called this water treatment "Mugabe’s submarine". A canvas bag is filled with water an a victim’s head is pushed to the bottom of the bag - hour after hour. Somehow the two men survived their terrible ordeal and went on to receive treatment at Helen Bamber’s clinic. Ms Bamber treated survivors of Belsen and the Holocaust after World War Two and is, in many respects, a living legend and symbol of hope and recovery after torture. During the run up to Presidential Elections in Zimbabwe next year, Robert Mugabe and his ruling party Zanu(PF) have declared war on independent minded journalists - people like Mark Chavanduka.
From The Star (SA), 7 May
Rwandan leader in Zimbabwe for talks on DRC
Harare - Rwanda's President Paul Kagame began talks in Zimbabwe with his counterpart Robert Mugabe on Monday on the conflict in the DRC, where their troops back opposite sides in a regional war. "The talks are expected to centre on the search for peace in the DRC," state radio said. Kagame, making a surprise visit to Harare, was met at the airport by Mugabe and several cabinet ministers. The visit had not been announced by authorities. Kagame was accompanied by Foreign Minister Andre Bumaya as well as by military, information and diplomatic officials. Mugabe and Kagame have met a number of times, usually while attending summits aimed at discussing the implementation of the peace accord signed by all the belligerents in Lusaka in mid-1999.
Meanwhile, the European Union announced on Monday that it was freeing up about R867-million in development aid for the DRC that had been frozen for almost a decade because of EU concerns about the lack of democracy and respect for human rights in the country. The EU's executive body, the European Commission, said it was releasing the aid because of DRC President Joseph Kabila's commitment to ceasefire arrangements and his pledge to relaunch a process of national reconciliation. The Commission said the allocation of the funding was "a historic step towards the normalisation of relations" between the DRC and the EU and showed European support for moves to end the country's civil war. EU development aid to the DRC was suspended in 1992 because then-president Mobutu Sese Seko blocked the introduction of democratic reforms in the country.
Canada has protested to the Zimbabwean government after its top diplomat and a Canadian international aid group director were assaulted by militants, the Canadian embassy in Harare said on Monday. Canada's high commissioner to Zimbabwe, James Wall, was pushed and shoved on Friday when he tried to stop so-called war veterans from abducting Dennis O'Brien, director of the aid agency CARE International, the embassy said.
From The Times (UK), 7 May
Mugabe's opponent on trial for treason
Harare - The treason trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition MDC, begins today as President Mugabe tries to block his most formidable opponent from standing against him in presidential elections expected next year. The State is to bring charges of terrorism and sabotage against Mr Tsvangirai under the Law and Order Maintenance Act, which was passed in the 1960s by the former Rhodesian Government to stifle black opposition to white rule. The offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Lawyers said that it was more likely that the Government hoped that he would be sentenced to at least six months in jail, which would prevent him from standing as a candidate.
Mr Tsvangirai’s alleged crime is that last September he told 20,000 supporters at a rally in Harare: "We say to Robert Mugabe, if you don’t want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently." Almost immediately he retracted his statement. It took the Government five months to decide to bring charges against him. The offence is so serious, lawyers said, that people charged are usually held in custody before and during their trial. Mr Tsvangirai has been asked once to come to the police station to make a statement and has been unhindered over the affair since then. "It’s very difficult to believe they are serious with this," a senior human rights lawyer said. "You’ve got to prove a full-scale plot for charges to stick. All they have is a single statement, which was withdrawn within an hour."
However the 48-year-old former trade union leader holds out the prospect of defeat for the 77-year-old dictator in the presidential elections. In parliamentary elections last year, Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF party managed to win a narrow majority in the 120 elected constituencies in the first real challenge after 20 years of de facto one-party rule. The ruling party secured a comfortable majority by virtue of constitutional provisions for Mr Mugabe to choose another 30 seats. In the total number of votes cast, the MDC and Zanu PF were separated by a few thousand. Zimbabwe’s presidential elections are won only on votes cast and Mr Mugabe will have no help from the Constitution.
"He stands no chance in a free and fair poll," Mr Tsvangirai said yesterday. "They realise I have built a credible base in the country. By fraud they want to prevent me from contesting and from being the main challenge to Mugabe." Gibson Sibanda, the MDC’s vice-president, and another MP are facing the same charges as Mr Tsvangirai, also over "subversive" statements uttered at political rallies. Mr Tsvangirai said that the charges were "a clear case of the law being applied selectively". The leaders of Mr Mugabe’s mobs of so-called guerrilla war veterans and ruling party MPs regularly threaten to go back to war if Mr Mugabe loses elections.
The series of expected trials are regarded as only one piece of Mr Mugabe’s Machiavellian strategy to ensure that he wins next year’s presidential elections. Since shortly after last year’s elections, a comprehensive campaign of physical and institutional repression has unfolded to intimidate voters and to squash almost every source of support for Mr Tsvangirai. Zanu PF is trying to win back the strongly pro-MDC urban areas with a lawless campaign of invasions of mostly white-run factories and offices to force owners to pay workers exorbitant allowances.
On Friday CARE International, the aid agency, was raided by about 25 war veterans, who abducted the director, Dennis O’Neill, from his office and pushed past attempts by Jim Wall, the Canadian High Commissioner, to stop them. He was released unharmed the same day. Police took no action. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Industry and International Trade, who has publicly opposed the war veterans’ raids on businesses, has resigned and left for South Africa, reports said yesterday. Nkosana Moyo was said to feel unable to do his job while Zanu PF policies scared off investors.
From Business Day (SA) - "Should the court decide to postpone the hearing today, this too could see Tsvangirai out of the running, as a person charged under the law and order act may not participate in any political activities."
From News24 (SA), 6 May
From The Independent (UK), 7 May
Trade minister walks out on 'divisive' Mugabe
Harare - One of President Robert Mugabe's most competent ministers, who has rejected the recent invasions of companies by self-styled "war veterans", resigned from Zimbabwe's cabinet at the weekend. Nkosana Moyo, a physicist-turned-banker, was one of three talented technocrats brought into government after elections last June, which Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF narrowly won in the face of stiff opposition from the MDC. But they have found, as the local saying goes, that there is only one bull in the kraal (cattle-pen) of the Zimbabwean government, and that sensible economic decisions fall prey to political choices aimed primarily at keeping Zanu-PF and Mr Mugabe in power.
As the Minister of Industry and International Trade, Mr Moyo was put in charge of attracting investment and helping to reverse the economic decline. At the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo, he hit out at company invasions by war veterans who support Zanu-PF. The invasions have destabilised businesses already battling to survive. A former senior state official said there was speculation that the Finance Minister, Simba Makoni, another technocrat, might quit.
Zimbabwe is in economic implosion, with joblessness at 60 per cent, interest rates at 70 per cent, and a GDP that is shrinking by 10 per cent a year. Some 400 companies that closed before Christmas have not reopened. The veterans have warned that embassies and non-governmental organisations also face invasion. Mr Moyo sent his family to South Africa, reportedly en route to Britain, before making the shock announcement. His departure strips Mr Mugabe, 77, of a confident minister who may have been able to help turn around the economy had he been given a chance and weakens further any credibility the government has left.
There has been speculation that another reason for Mr Moyo's resignation was that he had failed to persuade Zanu-PF to consider forming a government of national unity with the MDC. The former state official said. "He was keen for the parties to work together in the interests of all Zimbabwe, given the current crisis." Mr Moyo told a local newspaper yesterday: "My aim is to unite people. Zimbabwe needs unification and not division." But he refused to explain the reasons for his resignation.
Any chance of the parties uniting will be further eroded today when the MDC's president, Morgan Tsvangirai, appears in court in Harare charged with treason for warning last year that Mr Mugabe - who has been in power for 21 years -would be overthrown if he did not step down. If found guilty and jailed, the hot-blooded former trade union leader will be precluded from standing against Mr Mugabe in presidential elections that have to be held within the next 18 months. It would be disastrous for the MDC, which has been building a national profile for Mr Tsvangirai and has nobody ready to take his place.
Mr Tsvangirai told The Independent that his worries about the judiciary's independence had evaporated after recent MDC court victories. The party is challenging the results of the election in dozens of constituencies on the basis of fraud and intimidation. Last week, courts set aside results in two areas, including the Zanu-PF victory in Mr Tsvangirai's constituency. Mr Tsvangirai said: "[The judiciary] is not as compliant as government would wish it to be, although individuals on the bench might still succumb to political pressure." The case is being widely interpreted as a government bid to intimidate the MDC, erode its funds, and stop Mr Tsvangirai challenging Mr Mugabe. The opposition leader believes the action is unconstitutional. "My remark may have been undiplomatic but it is not illegal or criminal," he said.
From The American Prospect, 9 April
Herman Cohen's future prospects are rosy. After all, murder and mayhem are good for business. So, too, is a lack of conscience.
Somewhere in Africa, a dictator sits in his presidential palace, alone and forlorn. Just recently, he deployed troops to quell an opposition rally and a few unarmed civilians were killed. Nothing out of the ordinary, really; but this time the international press have descended on his capital. Foreign governments are calling for democratic reforms. And embarrassed international financial institutions, which have long subsidized the corrupt regime, are openly discussing a loan cutoff. As he ponders the gross unfairness of his current predicament, the dictator is momentarily despondent. Abruptly, though, a smile comes to his face. There is still plenty of money in his personal checking account - the state treasury - so all is not lost. Far from it. The dictator flips through his Rolodex and reaches for the telephone. Who's he gonna call?
In all likelihood, lobbyist Herman Cohen in Arlington, Virginia. In recent years, Cohen has emerged as the influence peddler of choice for African despots in need of a public relations buff-up. His access and client list are both sure to grow even more now that George W. Bush - under whose father Cohen served as assistant secretary of state for Africa - occupies the White House.
Lobbying for foreign governments almost always poses ethical dilemmas. Adwoa Dunn-Mouton, a former staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, worked as a lobbyist for several African governments after leaving Capitol Hill. She says that she tried to prod clients to take concrete steps toward democracy that would change international perceptions about their governments. "They didn't want to hear it," recalls Dunn-Mouton, who resigned after a brief career at the Washington Strategic Group, a Beltway lobbying firm. "The whole point of hiring a lobbyist was to have someone spin the situation so they wouldn't have to make real changes."
"Putting a happy face on murder and mayhem" is how Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, describes the role of lobbyists like Cohen who represent foreign dictators. "Most of the countries who hire them have virtually no money, but they need professional schmoozers to promote their regimes," he says. "They're paying for respectability and stature in Washington and, they hope, foreign aid and access to American markets."
Though a relative newcomer to the profession, Cohen has quickly become one of Washington's best-known lobbyists for foreign nations. A key to his success is the contacts he formed, at home and abroad, during a 38-year career in the State Department (where he served as ambassador to Senegal, then to Gambia, before he became assistant secretary of state for Africa). Cohen cultivated close relations with Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). In 1992 Mobutu's power was eroding and there was a strong internal push for a transition to civilian rule. Pro-democracy forces hoped Cohen, who went to Zaire, would press the tyrant to step down. Instead, he appeared on government-run television and announced that the aging kleptocrat was "enthusiastic for democracy." In South Africa, Cohen and George H.W. Bush's administration lifted all sanctions on the apartheid regime in July 1991 - a step opposed by Nelson Mandela, who didn't become president of the country until three years later.
After checking out of government service, Cohen became head of the Global Coalition for Africa, a World Bank-affiliated organization that preaches orthodox pro-business recipes for the continent. In 1994 he and James Woods, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs under Ronald Reagan and George Bush the elder, formed the lobby shop of Cohen and Woods International (CWI). Cohen boasted to Legal Times about the wide range of contacts - from heads of state to Central Bank governors - that he and his partner enjoyed in Africa. "You can count on one hand the number of [top leaders] we don't know," he said. Randall Robinson, president of the TransAfrica Forum, asserts in Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America that Cohen failed to promote democracy while in office - something he could have done "with any competence and half a heart" - and that he seeks to collect "representation fees from the very African countries whose interests he formerly held in callous disregard."
In addition to offering clients strategic advice and chasing up foreign investment and aid, CWI staffers write speeches, arrange official visits to the United States, prepare briefing papers, testify before Congress, and spin the media. Disclosure reports reveal regular contact between firm employees and a host of Washington power centers - including the White House, the Pentagon, international lending agencies, and think tanks. CWI folks also serve as bigwig escorts: They may accompany, say, Mozambique's commercial attaché to a meeting with Edwin Barber of the Treasury Department's Office of African Nations; or they may introduce a top economic adviser of the Ivory Coast's president to Michael Newell, the country manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (to discuss "grant criteria").
Cohen has an especially easy time getting doors to open in the capital. During a four-month stretch in 1999, he attended a breakfast fundraiser for Representative Edward Royce, a California Republican who chairs the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa; he lunched with Gayle Smith of the National Security Council; and he had dinner at his home with William Swing, U.S. ambassador to Congo. He's a regular on the Hill, where he meets with members of Congress and key aides. "His name carries a lot of weight, with Democrats and Republicans," says Charisse Glassman, a staffer for Democratic Representative Donald Payne of New Jersey, who also sits on the Africa subcommittee.
One of CWI's first big lobbying contracts came in 1995, when the firm agreed, in exchange for $300,000, to coordinate media relations for Omar Bongo, president of Gabon. The firm's stated mission was to present Gabon as a "politically stable and economically successful country" and to "generate awareness of President Bongo and his national and international accomplishments." Among those accomplishments was establishing the "very concrete process of democratization and democratic reforms." As the ink dried on the contract, the State Department released its annual report on human rights around the globe. This report found that Bongo's security forces were responsible for "many confirmed extra-judicial killings" and that government-sanctioned torture in Gabon was routine. ("Eyewitnesses reported seeing prisoners tied to chairs, doused with ice water, or made to crawl on their stomachs over gravel or sun-baked asphalt.")
As to "the very concrete process of democratization" that had supposedly taken place under Cohen's client - who has been in power since 1967 - the State Department said that the previous election in which Bongo allegedly won 51 percent of the vote was "marred by serious irregularities, including a secret vote count that excluded all but government observers. In Bongo's home region of Haut Ogoue, the number of votes cast for Bongo was greater than the population reported in the 1993 census." Bongo is not only a thug but a crook as well. It's impossible to know exactly how much money he has stolen from the national treasury, but a 1999 Senate report on money laundering indicates that he deposited $130 million with Citibank's private banking department. The report includes a memo that Citibank's Alain Ober, a private banking officer who handled the account, sent to several colleagues, which reads: "[I] never asked our client where his money came from. My guess ... is that in view of the importance of our client's country as a provider of cheap oil to France, it was (and still is) important that our client stayed in power and thus the French government/French oil companies (Elf) made 'donations' to him (very much like we give to PACs in the U.S.!)."
CWI's contract with Gabon lasted only a year, but there's been no shortage of business since. The firm's clients have included Tunisia, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and even Angola - despite the Bush administration's strong support for Jonas Savimbi, the guerrilla leader who has waged war on the country. Angola is stronger than Savimbi. Perhaps the most notorious CWI client was Charles Taylor of Liberia. He took power following a seven-year civil war that Kenneth Cain describes in a Human Rights Quarterly article as "a relentless campaign of sadistic, wanton violence unimaginable to those unfamiliar with the details of man's capacity to visit the abyss." According to Cain, Taylor "inaugurated the use of grade school-age children as scouts, spies, and cannon fodder [and] explicitly employed terror tactics, ethnic cleansing, and political assassinations."
Taylor brought this charming style of rule to the presidency, which he assumed in July of 1997. Four months later, security forces kidnapped prominent oppositionist Samuel Dokie, his wife, a niece, and a cousin as the family was travelling to a wedding. A week later, the four were found dead. All of them had been tortured; Dokie's eyes had been gouged out before he'd been burned and beheaded. In foreign policy, Taylor is chiefly known for his support of the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel group in neighboring Sierra Leone that routinely amputates the hands, legs, ears, and lips of anyone who opposes it. A contract signed in 1999 by the two parties provided that CWI would be paid $300,000 to assist Taylor in "overcoming obstacles to a constructive relationship" between Liberia and the U.S. government and otherwise help to ease the country's international isolation.
Targets of CWI's lobbying included government officials plus "the business community, the press, non-governmental organizations, and the academic world." A Capitol Hill staffer who asked not to be identified said that CWI adapted - understandably, under the circumstances - low-key approach on behalf of Liberia. "They never tried to say that Taylor was a good guy - they knew they couldn't get away with that," he says. "They'd talk about how cutting off Liberia would be counterproductive and would result in a lessening of U.S. influence." Despite its best efforts, CWI had only mixed results for Taylor. Bill Clinton's administration never imposed the broad sanctions sought by human rights groups, but it did shun the regime and bar all Liberian officials from entering the United States.
Among CWI's most recent clients - until he was murdered in January - was the president of Congo, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who drove Mobutu from power. He was paying the lobby shop $250,000 to build "a more constructive relationship" between Congo and the United States. Cohen was working on the project with Edward van Kloberg, who stands out, even within the amoral world of Washington lobbying, for handling accounts that few will touch. His clients have included Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, and Samuel Doe of Liberia. (Van Kloberg's exertions on behalf of the last two came to a sudden halt when they were murdered in office following years of brutal rule.)
One of Cohen's specific tasks for Congo - and for another client, Burkina Faso -is to water down legislation that would bar U.S. imports of "blood diamonds," whose sale allows African governments and rebel groups to finance their wars. Industry officials say that blood diamonds account for about 4 percent of the world's $6-billion-a-year trade, while human rights groups argue that 15 percent is a more accurate estimate. Last year Democratic Representative Tony Hall of Ohio introduced legislation that would require that diamonds sold in the United States - where two-thirds of all diamond sales take place - be accompanied by a certificate of origin, to ensure that no blood diamonds would be allowed in the country. Deborah DeYoung, a Hall staffer, recalls that Cohen came by the office to voice his opposition to the bill. "He said that our proposal wasn't workable and that we should look at other types of control measures, like monitoring ports," she says. "He was advocating an approach that wouldn't shut down an industry that's important to his clients." In addition to African nations involved in the trade, the diamond industry fiercely lobbied against the legislation. So Hall and other supporters have altered the bill in hopes of getting it through Congress.
CWI's most recent contract - a five-year deal at $600,000 per annum - was signed last September with the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. At the time, Mugabe was in desperate need of a PR face-lift. His nation's economy was in shambles; and 32 people, mostly opposition supporters, had been killed during parliamentary elections held three months earlier. Meanwhile, Mugabe's land reform plan - which would seize 3,000 properties without compensation and give them to landless blacks - was generating criticism, partly at home but mostly abroad. The contract calls for CWI to take the "necessary steps to overcome recent negative publicity, and to restore enduring trust, confidence and mutual respect between Zimbabwe and the international community." Firm lobbyists are specifically asked to smooth relations between Zimbabwe and the International Monetary Fund, and to "counter anti-Zimbabwe content in the international media." As part of the latter effort, CWI is to establish a Web site that will provide news from Zimbabwe as well as information about business and tourism opportunities there.
CWI has been working especially hard to head off congressional passage of the Zimbabwe Democracy Act, which sailed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last June but stalled on the House side. The bill would cut off American aid to Zimbabwe and require the U.S. government to oppose any loans to Mugabe's government by international lenders. Last September, to oppose the bill, Cohen personally met with Republican Representative Amo Houghton of New York. According to disclosure forms, Cohen "expressed the view that, while the objectives of promoting democracy and respect for the rule of law were certainly laudable, Zimbabwe should be given a few months to resolve its political crisis rather than rushing to impose external sanctions." Houghton's office refused to comment on the meeting with Cohen.
In an interview with TAP, Cohen defended the role of the lobbyist in general and his firm's work in particular: "We advise clients on their situation in the U.S. and tell them that if they really want to improve relations, here are some things you have to do. We aren't able to get them any privileges that they don't deserve." He said that CWI has turned down clients - for example, the former dictatorship of General Sani Abacha in Nigeria, which he called "beyond the pale" - and that the firm resigned from the Liberia account after three months. "We saw there was nothing to be done, that the government just wanted us to wave a magic wand [to make its problems go away]." At the same time, Cohen said he'd be happy to renew his firm's contract with Congo if the new government there so desired, and he acknowledged that CWI hasn't been able to convince the government of Zimbabwe to improve its record on civil and human rights. "That's beyond our influence," he said.
Given the scope of Africa's troubles, particularly armed conflicts and human rights-abusing governments, Herman Cohen's future prospects are rosy. After all, murder and mayhem are good for business. So, too, is a lack of conscience.